Despite lead guitarist Synyster Gates’ insistence that Avenged Sevenfold’s sixth studio album “blasts your fucking head off,” it just doesn’t. The listener may contemplate the varied heavy riff selections or nod along politely to the more intense solos, but your dome remains largely intact between your headphones. Hail to the King stops short of decapitation as an unfortunate result of its derivative nature. The LP is simply too familiar and comforting to live up to any epic expectations.
“This Means War” epitomizes this reality. A moderately stimulating opening melody leads into what can best be described as a pitch-modulated and questionably legal remastery of Metallica’s signature “Sad but True” riffs.
This manner of excessive sampling, however, must not be mistaken for a lack of quality. “This Means War” is a particular gem with its soaring chorus, instrumentally heavy verses, and a masterful, memorable guitar solo.
To some extent, the apparent excellence of “This Means War” results from the album’s inauspicious start. The opener “Shepherd of Fire” begins with a rather aggressive nod to Black Sabbath comprised of fire and funeral bells building to subdued crunchy riffs.
The title track, too, is tame, though glimpses of potential power shine through in the stampeding melodic guitar solo and final chorus, where the rhythm at last reaches a pleasant consistency.
Hail to the King offers no opportunities for complaints on a particularly vital front. However, borrowed riffs and replicated styles fail to obscure the instantly recognizable A7X sound refined over the past 14 years.
“Doing Time” and “Heretic,” for instance, feature Gates on classic mid-tempo, upper-octave guitar interludes as frontman M. Shadows howls the lyrics in his unmistakable coarse baritone. Even “Crimson Day,” which in parts resembles Metallica’s “One,” closely matches the more melodic hits of Avenged Sevenfold’s earlier albums.
Despite the occasional successful track, harnessing the legends of rock and metal to create a revitalized sound proved to be an unjustified risk. The resulting Hail to the King falls just short of vindicating the band’s good intentions. Still, though Avenged Sevenfold serves up an album filled with meh-tal, the creation is just interesting enough to warrant a listen.
Voice’s Choices: “This Means War,” “Doing Time”